Category Archives: Finding Inspiration

Spending a Year with Ray Bradbury

by Milo James Fowler

Ray Bradbury wasn’t always Ray Bradbury—not the Ray Bradbury we know and love who blessed us with Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Death Is a Lonely Business, just to name a few.

Once upon a time, Bradbury was just a struggling young writer in love with the craft. He wrote a short story every week, polished it as fast as he could, and submitted it to a magazine. Rejection letters flooded in, mainly due to his prolific submissions: the more you write, the more responses you get. There were also acceptance letters along the way, and they inspired him to keep doing what he loved: telling stories as only he could.

In the fall of 2009, I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Bradbury speak at a local library. Witnessing this great literary figure in the flesh was a surreal experience. I had to keep reminding myself that this was really happening, that I was really there. He spoke about being a “lover of life,” and that, for him, his writing was always a labor of love. I didn’t get a chance to shake his hand or tell him how much I appreciated him; he probably got enough of that already. There was standing room only, and an allotted fifty fans ahead of me were having him sign copies of We’ll Always Have Paris. I’ll always cherish this memory.

I’ve been writing novels since I was twelve years old, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Crafting tales from my imagination, polishing them up, sharing them with friends and family and, eventually, complete strangers—there’s nothing quite like it. In the summer of 2009, I started submitting my work for publication, and in January of 2010, my first short story was published. In the months that followed, I had a few other stories accepted by various publications, and I also collected quite the growing pile of rejection letters along the way. All par for the course.

One of my friends congratulated me after a particular story was published, joking, “You must be writing a story every week!”

Remembering Bradbury’s early years, I replied, “Not yet, but maybe someday!”

Someday turned out to be 2011, when I committed to writing and submitting 52 short stories in 52 weeks—drafting, revising, editing, polishing, and sending them out to publications. My goal was both quantity and quality, and somehow I was going to make it happen despite working full-time as an English teacher.

Writing 1,000-word flash fiction helped create a buffer for my longer works. If I wrote a couple flash-sized tales early in the month and submitted them ahead of schedule, I could then spend the rest of the month on a story that was 5,000 words or more. Once I got into the rhythm of writing, editing, and submitting, I found that my ability to write on demand improved. There wasn’t time for staring at a blank screen and doubting myself. I had to write, and the more I did, the more fluid my process became. Was every story awesome? Nope. With every rejection letter that came in, I tweaked each tale until it was just the way I wanted it and got it back out on the submission circuit. There was no time to obsess over every story; I had more writing to do.

Ray Bradbury’s point was that if you wrote 52 short stories, they couldn’t all be bad. There had to be a few that shone brighter than diamonds in the rough. I found that to be the case as half a dozen of my stories that year were accepted by top-tier SFWA-qualifying publications. But were all 52 of my stories published? It took about three years, but yes indeed, I managed to sell all of them to editors around the world.

The journey of a writer is exhilarating, frustrating, maddening, and life-giving, and I’ve signed up for all of the above. I’m determined to ride out the lows knowing there will be highs just as extreme waiting for me in the future. With everything I write, I’m a step closer to becoming the writer I want to be.

Every writer starts somewhere. My journey began in 6th grade with a manual typewriter and some pretty crazy ideas. I waited twenty years before I started submitting my work for publication. Now I’m making up for lost time.

Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for inspiring me.


Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. Over the past 5 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 100 publications. Find his novels, novellas, and short story collections wherever books are sold. http://www.milojamesfowler.com/

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I Write Because I Must

by Joshua C. Chadd

Why do I write?

This is such a simple question but I don’t think it’ll be a simple answer, so bear with me. I guess, to best explain it I’ll have to go back in time.

A long, long time ago in a frontier far, far away, a little boy grew up in the wilds of Alaska, raised by wolves. Okay, the wolf part isn’t true, but I did grow up at a lodge in the bush of Alaska where I spent my spring/summer/falls with my family. Out there we had no running water, electricity, internet, video games or TV. As you can imagine, growing up with my brother, we had grand adventures outside, because it was the only way to entertain ourselves. I mean when the whole wilderness is your playground, the possibilities are endless! We went on imaginary adventures day after day and sometimes we wouldn’t even come out of character for days on end.

Fast forward to middle school, we were now living in Colorado and introduced to the world of internet and video games. This was a blessing and a curse, because I was familiarized with high fantasy, where before I knew little. Needless to say, I was hooked. Now, instead of playing our “imaginary games” outside, (which we still did at times and I still do today) I began to write. The art of creating with words hooked me, but . . . my English class killed that quickly. Now, I’m not saying all English classes are like this, but mine sucked. Throughout middle school, my urge to write kind of died until I began taking online classes my junior and senior year. My imagination flourished! I began to write more, but then soon stopped again. At that time, I had an addiction to video games that almost caused me to fail school.

After graduating, (yes, I did graduated and quit playing video games . . . mostly) I didn’t write for years as life got in the way. Then I started dating the woman who’d become my wife, and in a moment of vulnerability, I read her my unfinished, VERY unpolished story. She loved it! This was huge and I got another two pages written! Hey, that was a lot at the time, quit laughing. Then it died again as we pursued marriage and finally got married a year later. But that wasn’t the end, oh no, that was just the beginning!

I can still remember our first Christmas. I had no idea what my wife had gotten me, but I hadn’t been allowed into the spare bedroom of our apartment for a few days and I couldn’t imagine why. She opened the door on that Christmas morning and I couldn’t believe my eyes. In the room, against one of the walls, sat a nice wooden desk with odd knick-knacks on it, but the best part was a little book labeled, Joshua’s Book of Writing Inspiration. As I said, my marriage was the beginning of my journey as an author because my wife saw in me this immense desire to write that I had been repressing! She was the catalyst that began me down this road and one of the main things that keeps me going now!

I know, I know, I got away from the question, but I told you this wasn’t going to be a simple answer. As I wrote this, however, I realized it is a simple answer. I write because I must. I don’t have a choice. If I didn’t write, all the worlds and characters contained inside my head would find their own way to break out—and that wouldn’t be pretty. See, writing is not just something I do, it is a part of who I am!

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Never a Dull Moment – A Writer’s Inspiration


by Craig Anderson

As a writer the first question people ask me (after the psychic trick of knowing if they have read any of my books) is where do I come up with my ideas. I wish there was a more magical answer to this question, that there was an ephemeral spirit that whispers stories into my ear on the full moon, but the reality is far more practical. Most of my story ideas come from some random mish mash of things I read or conversations I’ve had. They percolate in my brain, sometimes for hours, sometimes for months, and then out of the blue a germ of an idea takes hold and I can’t shake it until I’ve gotten it down on paper. I’ll give you a recent example.

I am fascinated by A.I. I read articles about it, watch youtube videos and keep abreast of what is happening in the field. I can’t help but feel this is going to be the single greatest game changer in our lifetimes. A.I. has the potential to completely reshape almost every aspect of our lives. It’s also fantastic for stories, both because of the massive potential but also because A.I. does not think like a human. This contrast between what we expect an A.I. to do and what it would actually do is an endless source of conflict, and therefore stories.

While reading a technology magazine I stumbled across an article on CRISPR gene editing. This is another field in it’s infancy with just as much potential to change us as a species. Unfortunately humans are just as likely to abuse this technology as we are to solve all our problems.

So you have two world changing technologies both coming into their own at similar times. What if you combined them? An A.I. that could edit genes. Sounds terrifying right? It still wasn’t enough for a story though. It needed something else, a hook to bring it all together. It sat there simmering in my brain, like a soup missing a key ingredient.

That ingredient came in a random conversation with a friend. Somehow we got talking about climate change and the impact on animal species, particularly pollinators such as bees. Unless we could find a way to save the bees the impact on food production would be catastrophic. It got me thinking, how would an A.I. solve this problem? What if the A.I. could build a better bee? 10 minutes after that conversation I had a story already forming. I wrote it pretty quickly, over the space of a few months. Just like that, The Colony was born.

For me, sci-fi is fun because it asks the question ‘what if’ and then attempts to answer it. There are no ‘wrong’ answers, but not all of my ideas are good ones. I have a harddrive full of half finished books that will never see the light of day. Either the idea isn’t interesting enough, or I don’t know enough about the topic to properly answer the question, or I write myself into a corner and can’t dig out. To me this is all part of the fun. They sit there patiently in the back of my mind, just waiting for that key piece of information to make them whole. Every time I read an article, or watch a video, or chat with a friend, that could be the trigger for my next story. If there’s one thing I can say for sure, it’s that being a writer is never dull!

How Location Creates Stories (Venice)

by A.L. Knorr

The Entrance to the Grand Canal, Venice (1730)
by Canaletto


I moved to Italy (by accident, but that’s a story for another time) in June of 2015, and since then, one of the things people at home are most curious about is what it’s like to live and work there. When I first arrived, I had stars in my eyes, just like anyone who steps into the Italian life for a short time. The Italy in the imagination of someone who has never been there is an Italy of fantastic works of art, thousand-year-old churches, fine cheese and wine, and villas built into cliff faces over teal seas. That is all true. Whatever your taste, Italy can meet expectations. But after a time you begin to notice other, not so obvious, traits of the culture which could easily feed the appetite of an author looking to create conflict and tie in elements of the supernatural and fantastical. Italy is rife with conflict, danger, corruption, not to mention a rich history of unexplained and paranormal events. Rich ground for a storyteller.

Specifically, it was living in Venice for 8 months that yanked the rip-cord on my creativity and led to a work called Born of Fire. The story is a fantasy about a young woman who goes through an intense and dangerous elemental transformation. I had the idea for the story for a while, but the setting for it didn’t materialize until I spent time walking the canals and islands of Venezia. At first, I rejected the idea of setting it in Venice, after all, it is a city built on water, how could I possibly tie it into the element of fire? But as I toured the Palace of the Doge, visited underground prison cells, the bridge of sighs, and walked the uneven marble floors of the basilica and saw the true cost of building on top of a lagoon, I learned that Venice had a torrential relationship with fire and many boroughs had been completely destroyed by it. I was surprised by this, the city appears not only to be surrounded by water but to be made of stone, which doesn’t burn easily.

In actuality, the stone faces of the beautiful architecture in Venice are a facade. Underneath is brick, which is lighter and keeps the building from sinking but is also much more flammable. There were so many deadly fires that by the mid-sixteenth century, the Venetian government moved all of the glass-blowers along with their dangerous ovens north to the island of Murano. I suddenly had a relationship between fire and Venice. A setting for Born of Fire had been found and with the selection of a setting, so much of the story just fell together. I hope that, in addition to enjoying a fantasy story about a girl who finds herself in desperate need to take control of the fire raging inside her, readers who have never visited Venice will also feel like they’ve been transported to one of the most unique cities in the world.


You can check out A.L. Knorr’s books here.

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